The British Council has designated 2017 as the ‘UK India Year of Culture’, and there are loads of ways to celebrate, but many of them involve a trip to find India in London – perfect if you can’t afford a flight to Delhi just yet. Here are the key happenings to put on your itinerary, without leaving the UK.
Guards at the Taj, Bush Theatre, until 20th May
The Taj Mahal hasn’t lost any of its appeal since it was built in the 1600s – it’s still considered one of the world’s greatest buildings, and a must-see for anyone visiting northern India. However, the craftsmen and slaves used to create the Taj paid a high price for their part in the most beautiful building in the world, as Rajiv Joseph’s play reveals.
Happy International Women’s Day! Being a feminist and being a travel addict can sometimes cause problems, from the politics of travel safety advice to the never-ending stream of sexist travel campaigns (ahem, Air New Zealand flight safety video featuring bikini-clad girls…). However, when you dig deeper, you’ll find enlightened feminist views across the world.
Today, the International Labour Organisation published the ILO-Gallup report, revealing that 70% of women and 66% of men (from nearly 149,000 people surveyed) would like women to be paid for their work. These positive findings included support from many women in countries where paid employment is rare, such as the UAE.
In 2017 it will be 170 years since three Yorkshire sisters exploded onto the literary scene with their debut novels. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey are all classics, written under the same roof: the parsonage at Haworth, which is now the Bronte Parsonage Museum.
Anyone in search of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë will have this museum on their wish list. Over 7 million visitors have traipsed through the door, despite a dip in visitor numbers in 2015. This is why they keep coming.
Brontës in Haworth
The Brontë family lived in Haworth from 1820-1861, having moved from Thornton so Patrick Brontë, the head of the family, could take up his position as curate of Haworth, Stanbury and Oxenhope. There were six Brontë children, but their mother Maria, followed by the two eldest children, Maria and Elizabeth, were all dead by 1825.
London is a museum lover’s dream, but there are always far too many high-profile exhibitions and permanent collections to choose from and, try as I might, I never get to see them all. Hidden London museums, in comparison, are usually cheaper and quieter to visit, yet they’re easily overlooked.
The thing is, those smaller and more obscure attractions don’t get an equal billing, and many tourists miss out on these underrated attractions. I’ve selected six of my favourite hidden London museums to redress the balance.
Can you ‘do’ Helsinki in a day? You won’t see everything the city has to offer on a Helsinki day trip from Tallinn, but you’ll get a taste of Finnish culture before returning to the cheaper and more laid back Estonia. It’s the best of both worlds for travellers on a budget.
Getting There and Getting Around
There’s more than one ferry company going from Tallinn to Helsinki, but some aren’t so reliable; you could risk being stranded overnight on the wrong side of the water. I chose a two-hour crossing with Tallink (€32pp), having paid online and checked in online to save a few extra Euros. The crossing was smooth, but the facilities weren’t brilliant (limited food choices, few seats and hardly any toilets). However, you can sit in the food court area by Burger King without buying anything, and nobody bats an eyelid.
It doesn’t feel like 15 years have passed since the 9/11 attacks, nor two years since the 9/11 Memorial Museum opened at Ground Zero. Yet, somehow, they have, and the memorial site at Ground Zero is so familiar and so firmly embedded on the tourist route that a group of lads on a stag party (or bachelor party, to American readers) will nonchalantly pose in front of the two sobering memorial pools, a blow-up doll alongside them.
The stag photos rightly caused controversy this week, but the outrage didn’t extend to the preening and pouting fellow tourists around them. One couple took a kissing selfie, perhaps blissfully unaware of their surroundings or just too self-absorbed to care. The thing is, it’s a privilege to stand at the memorial. It should be a place where you stop to reflect, whether you choose to go to the adjoining museum or not. If you are brave enough to face the Memorial Museum, this is what you can expect.
Tell someone you’re off to the land of Borgen and The Killing and they’re bound to ask, “Is Copenhagen expensive?”. Technically the answer is ‘yes’, but only in the same way that Paris or London can be pricey for the uninitiated. You really can do Copenhagen on a budget without skimping on culture, and I’ll show you how.
Free Things to Do in Copenhagen
Catch the Changing of the Guard ceremony every day at noon, at Amalienborg Palace. Yes, it’s a tourist cliché, but it’s fun too. Also, make time to wander around Nyhavn, which you’ll recognise from postcards and any films set here. For something a little offbeat, read my review of the free tour at the Danish Parliament, the Folketinget, or consider visiting the Danish Music Museum (Rosenørns Allé 22).
‘The hand and the machine’ is the vague-sounding inspiration for Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, at the Metropolitan Museum. It’s about the high levels of craftsmanship involved in making fashion since 1900, either by hand-sewing and embellishing or using sewing machines and 3D printers in the process. Kind of dry until you realise how important the fashion industry is around the world, how it reflects society, and how many economies it supports. It seems we could all learn from this show.
Amid last year’s mental health scandals – including spending cuts, insensitive comments from politicians, and crisis care failures – there was a big step forward in tackling the stigma of psychological illness. It came from a newly-opened museum and charity: Bethlem Museum of the Mind, in Beckenham, Kent, recently nominated for the 2016 Museum of the Year award.
Yes, the name might sound familiar. Bethlem is the fourth site of the notorious hospital better known as Bedlam. You won’t find power-crazed doctors leaving patients in chains – a stereotypical mental image associated with the ‘madhouse’ of earlier centuries – but you will find a place where modern mental illness is explained. What’s more, entry is free, and it’s open to everyone.
Most major cities have their own tourist cards, promising discounts on sightseeing and transport, but it’s not always easy to tell which ones are worth paying for. However, when it comes to the Lisboa Card, Lisbon’s equivalent, the benefits are certainly tempting enough…
How much does it cost?
There are 24, 48 or 72 hour cards available, priced at €18.50, €31.50 or €39.00 for adults, or €11.50, €17.50 and €22.50 for children. Bear in mind there’s hardly any price increase from 48 to 72 hours, so you might as well pick the longer option, especially as this gives you access to exclusive restaurant discounts (not available on shorter options).